By Shola Oyeyipo in Abuja

The federal government has placed the blame for the delay in the presentation of the 2019 budget by President Muhammadu Buhari at the doorstep of the National Assembly.

This was the position expressed by the Minister of Budget and National Planning Udoma Udoma, who briefed State House Correspondents after Wednesday’s Federal Executive Council (FEC) meeting in company with the Minister of Information and Culture, Alhaji Lai Mohammed, and Minister of Transport, Hon. Rotimi Amaechi.

Udoma said the budget is ready for presentation and that the council has been waiting for the National Assembly to give a date for the presentation.

He also said that N7.13 billion has been approved for six companies to protect six sections of the nation’s waterways.

Speaking on the budget, he said: “As you already know, the budget is ready. We are liaising with the National Assembly because they are to give us a date. If they say today, we will go. The budget is ready.”

As at October 24, FEC had approved the Medium Term Expenditure Framework (MTEF) and Fiscal Strategy Paper (FSP) for the 2019 – 2021, which is a template for the 2019 budget.

President Buhari approved a budget estimate of N8.73 trillion for the 2019 fiscal year, N400 billion lower than that of 2018 during the special FEC session held last Friday.

The council also expressed happiness with Nigeria’s GDP growth rate which rose to 1.81 per cent in the third quarter, according to the National Bureau of Statistics (NBS).

Udoma said government’s projection is to cut down the level of borrowing from N1.6 trillion in 2018 to N1.5 trillion in 2019, while the deficit component is to be reduced from N1.9 trillion in 2018 to N1.6 trillion.

Notwithstanding the recent oil output drop to about 1.9 million barrels a day, he expressed government’s optimism that the 2.3 million barrels a day target was achievable with production now rising to about 2.15 million barrels a day and new oil productions being put into play.

Though a $50 per barrel oil price benchmark was proposed in the ERGP, the minister also expressed confidence that with a significant rise in the price above $80 per barrel currently, government has proposed a $60 per barrel oil price for the budget.

He said N305 was proposed as naira-dollar exchange rate and that efforts are on to keep inflation down after slight increases in the last two months after 18 months consecutive decline.

Government projects a gross domestic product (GDP) growth rate of 3.01 per cent, reduced from 4.5 per cent in the ERGP; 3.6 per cent in 2020 and 3.9 per cent in 2021.

According to him, “Growth is expected to increase from 0.8 per cent in 2017 to 2.1 per cent this year and 3.01 per cent in 2019 with the continued implementation of the ERGP in 2019 and improved outlook for oil prices.”

He said with a projection that is based on the oil price and oil production assumptions, government hopes to generate about N3.6 trillion from oil, an increase of about N500 billion compared with 2018.

About N6.9 trillion revenue is projected to be available to the budget in 2019 while government expects to collect less revenue from some independent sources.

As against about N847 billion realised in the 2018 budget, the minister said only about N624 billion is expected in 2019.

Udoma added that he reported to council the steady recovery from the recession period, saying: “The report indicates that the economy when measured by real GDP grew at 1.81 per cent in the third quarter 2018, compared to 1.5 per cent in the second quarter of 2018, the FEC was particularly encouraged to note that economic growth continues to be driven by the non-oil sector which grew by 3.32 per cent in the third quarter. This has been the strongest growth in non-oil GDP in 12 consecutive quarters since the fourth quarter of 2015.

“By economic activity, non-oil growth was driven by transportation, electricity, telecommunication, metal oils, quarry and so on. In addition, agriculture and manufacturing sectors also grew, agriculture by 1.91 per cent, manufacturing by 1.92 per cent. These are stronger growth than in the second quarter.

“So, overall, council mostly is encouraged that these results show improvement in the economy. It also shows that our plans are working and it equally shows that we need to intensify our economy and keep fit with our reforms through continuous implementation of the ERGP in order to continue to attract investments and set the economy on a more sustainable inclusive growth trajectory and council is encouraged by this and believes we should be able to do even better in the fourth quarter.”

Shedding light on the waterway protection contract, Amaechi said the six contractors that got the protection of the waterways are formal companies and not rehabilitated militants.